Cooking Tips: Roasted Vegetables with Toasted Almonds
According to every credible, worthwhile nutrition, dietary plan and FDA approved food pyramid chart, we all need to add a minimum of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables to our diets while reducing fats, animal-based proteins (i.e. MEATS) and the intake simple processed carbohydrates. The problem is so many of us are meat and potato freaks, dining on greasy, salty hamburgers and fries and washing it down with sugary sodas. I have found that the key way I lost the "bulk" of my weight through Weight Watchers was by increasing my vegetable intake, lowering my fats and carbs and trying to eat less dessert and sugar in general. After 3 1/2 years, I've been very successful at keeping over 60 pounds off my frame. Though I'm not as gung-ho about the Weight Watchers plan these days, most days I'm eat 80% healthy, sometimes reaching 90% healthy clean eating if it's a diligent day.
If I eat simply and start the day off eating a fruit, protein and high fiber carbohydrate, I feel good all day. For me that means a typical breakfast of fresh or frozen fruit with non-fat Greek Style plain yogurt, topped with a low-sugar high fiber cereal (such as Kashi Hearts or All-Bran Flakes). One vegetable/fruit down and the other four aren't so hard to pack in. Heck some days I eat more than 5 servings.
For those of you who need more encouragement to eat vegetables, knowing how to cook vegetables using the best cooking methods to make them taste good is a must. Use Fresh (Not FROZEN) vegetables. Cut into like-sized pieces. Utilize simple cooking methods. Lightly steam or quickly blanch vegetables and toss with a little bit of quality olive oil (about a tablespoon for every four servings), a pinch of kosher salt and a generous dash of freshly ground black pepper. Or you can roast vegetables - the more the merrier! Our friend, Debbie George turned me onto this recipe idea over the Christmas holidays. She brought a huge tray of roasted vegetables to our annual Christmas Eve Dinner: cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, onions, peppers, zucchini, squash, carrots, and some roughly chopped garlic, seasoned with olive oil. The vegetables were roasted at high heat on a flat surface, such as a half-sheet tray to allow the water to evaporate & give the veggies room; Set a conventional oven to cook between 375 to 425 Degrees Fahrenheit, stirring the vegetables often so they cook uniformly; cook until the veggies caramelize and take on a candy-like sweetness - go ahead, I dare you not to devour the entire tray of tasty goodness! Easy enough, I've made vegetables like this often. You need high heat and time. But what I never though of was so simple that I slapped myself saying, "Why didn't I think of this before?" Debbie added sliced almonds which adds protein to the side dish, making it a nearly complete vegetarian/vegan meal. Add the sliced, slivered or chopped almonds, or you can use walnuts, filberts or cashews about 10 minutes before the veggies are done. Or you can toast the nuts before hand and add them when the vegetables are done. One other tip: use the stems of the broccoli. Peel away the tough fibrous outer layer, and slice the stem into 1/2 inch pieces. The inner stem is sweet and crunchy, kind of like a water chestnut. Waste not want not!